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Also Known as
Kali Mirch, Kali Miri, Black Pepper
Black peppercorns are such a common pantry item these days, it may be hard to believe it was once so valuable that it was used as currency and in barter exchange. It is produced from the still-green unripe berries of the pepper plant. The berries are cooked briefly in hot water, both to clean them and to prepare them for drying. The berries are then dried in the sun or by machine for several days, during which the pepper around the seed shrinks and darkens into a thin, wrinkled black layer. Once dried, the spice is called black peppercorn. They have a very strong flavour and are widely used in Indian cuisine.
Black peppercorns are usually ground into a fine powder and then used as black pepper powder in recipes. Ground pepper usually loses its aroma faster than whole peppercorns and thus should be stored in air tight containers. Many restaurants thus use pepper mills to crush pepper freshly and use in recipes.
How to select
Black peppercorns have a shriveled appearance and are sold whole loose or in packets. Many grocery stores adulterate packets of peppercorns with other berries which can be easily mistaken for peppercorns. Do check for such adulterants before purchasing.
· Black peppercorns can be used whole or in powdered form as the recipe demands.
· Whole black peppercorn is roasted and ground with other ingredients to make powders like garam masala, sambhar powder, rasam powder etc.
· Use black peppercorns tempered with ghee in biryanis, pulaos, dals and curries.
· Crushed black peppercorns are widely used to flavour sandwiches.
· Use powdered black pepper in soups, sauces, stocks and stews for that pungent zing.
· Crushed black peppercorns go well with curds and yoghurts. Thus, use them in raithas, dips and marinades.
· In South India, peppercorn is widely used in preparation of Rasam a thin soup eaten with rice and ghee.
· In the Middle East, it is used in grilled meats, salads and also porridge.
How to store
Store black peppercorns/coarsely crushed black peppercorns in air tight containers in a cool and dry place.
· Black Peppercorns act as digestive stimulants.
· People suffering from cough and other respiratory issues should include peppercorns in their diet. Its pungent flavour causes the mucus in the nose and throat to be released.
· Black peppercorns heal the inner system for women who have just delivered and thus pepper is ground and used in recipes.
· Black pepper contains the enzyme "piperine" which can dramatically increase the absorption of nutrients like Vitamin B, selenium and Beta- carotene.
· Black peppercorns also figure in Ayurveda and Siddha remedies. Books have mentioned how they aid combat illnesses like diarrhea, constipation, joint pains, indigestion, tooth decay, tooth aches etc.